Mine, Yours, Ours.
I recently invited Floridian artist Ty Williams over to my loft in Downtown LA to discuss his sorta new eclectic Caribbean/surf/prep clothing brand Ours Gallery and get some photos of the spring/summer line. Ours is just one venture in a massive manilla folder of cool stuff that Ty has put his name on. He’s illegally painted fish on a barricade outside of the Patagonia on Bowery (with whom he later designed a t-shirt). He’s legally painted on a bedroom wall at the Ace Hotel in Portland. He’s collaborated with numerous brands and shown solo art exhibits all over the world. Currently based out of LA, Ty’s now spending his time either trolling for ideas for Ours in distant countries or designing/building a house with his dad in Florida.
Interview & Photos by Paige Silveria
Last time I saw you was at that party in Laurel Canyon.
I was high on mushrooms at that party. I slept there in one of those teepees. It got cold. None of us made it to our cars. I’m PGing this. I woke up the next morning in this tent and I looked outside. I was doing the very typical, do I have my pants? Do I have my shoes? I’m covered in hay. And then I looked out and it literally looked like what I could imagine Baghdad to look like. There was one guy—and I took a photo of it, it was one of my most vivid memories of that day. The guy had slept there the whole night and he had ripped the show’s banner and wrapped himself in it. It looked like a crepe. His feet were hanging out one end and his hair was out the other. It was amazing.
What have you been up to lately?
Reggae tone is a big influence on me. I’ve been going to the Dub Club at the Echoplex. It’s every Wednesday night. I was almost going to go last night, but I just got back from a trip. It’s kind of the dark move to go by myself. I cruise Tumblrs for old reggae record covers. I wanna find old floral prints. Black folk look so awesome in everything. Ultimately I’ll be like, “Oh my gosh. I used to have that orange hat, but it didn’t look good on me.” But you put it on a black guy with dreds, it looks amazing.
Tell me how Ours started.
This is our fourth season. I started doing this officially three years ago. I was approached by friends in Japan. I travel to Japan quite a bit and I’ve always done freelance for tons of brands. It seemed like I was reaching a point where I was spreading myself with brands in Japan and in the States and not anything that particularly had me or my name on it. Speaking with friends there, they said that it would probably make sense if I could find a way to float something on my own. Then the age-old problem of funding came up. I was like, “Sure, if someone could write me a check …” It was totally baptism by fire. How do you start something without money? Then you get an investor, which is really interesting. How do you approach one? I’m a 27 year old kid trying to make a clothing brand. Why do you give a shit about me? I got really, really fortunate. I got suggested through some friends to a manufacturing company, a factory that makes a lot of other people’s stuff. So they were able to say that they’d invest in me, make the stuff and they own 60% of it. So it gave me a design freedom, which was the main thing for me. I didn’t want to be in a partnership with someone and then they say that I have to do this kind of thing. So once those criteria were met, it was time to start it.
And the name?
At the time, I had all of these different quirky and zany names bouncing around. I wanted something that had an inclusive vibe to it. Now it’s like Ours sounds kind of viby—like ours, not yours.
Ours is kind of a verbal design throw-up.
The whole point of it is that there are certain people out there that can take certain parts of it and leave certain parts of it. It’s not a surf brand. It’s not a skate brand. And I hate brand stories too. The style is like prep but with a Caribbean twist. There’s some more contemporary city vibes too, depending on the season. It’s not alienating any one particular group. Like my dad wears some of our shirts and he’s like a 77 year-old Maine farmer dude and that’s really cool to me. And then I have some skate kids in Brooklyn who are really punk who are really pumped on the t-shirts. So that’s where it started and it’s been going really awesome.
So you do all of the artwork, right?
I didn’t do this line; I asked a friend. He does color illustrations of like Jimmy Fallon for the New York Times and stuff, Matt Williams. I asked him if he could do a Burning Spear illustration and he’s like, “I guess so.” After this collection, I want to incorporate more people. I throw my style so that it doesn’t look like it’s just me because the budget is small. I’ll do more mixed media than illustration. But I think this next one, I’m going to have like Rob Kulisek do some cool photos. Just reach for friends. That’s how you get the budg.
How’s the business side of things for you?
It’s definitely been like a grad school of sorts in business. It’s not what I ever would have done. I’ve always been an illustrator or a creative person. I’ve had to adopt different roles with it. It has been very educational. I miss freelancing sometimes. Someone just phones in and says they need something. It starts and it finishes once we get the design. Whereas with this, there’s this factory that’s having this issue. Our factory does many things, but some things have to be outsourced of course to like China. That’s a whole other thing that I have to learn about.
Do you still freelance?
I do. Last year I had the opportunity to do a project with DL and the Patagonia on Bowery. That’s kind of an on-going thing. I’m honored ’cause it’s like, “Oh my god. You’re Patagonia.” Having been able to go to Ventura and meet those guys was amazing. So I’m not closing any doors. Ours is a fun project. I get to go to flea markets around the world. I just saw a something when I was in Indonesia. It was this long tunic. Maybe people won’t buy it. At least I’ll wear it. Call me crazy. People are going to be like, “Dude, this shirt’s really long.” I know. But I’m doing it now. And by no means am I stacking paper to the ceiling.
What were you doing with Patagonia?
When the location on Bowery in New York was under construction, they wanted someone to tag the wall. But since they have such a clean image, they wanted someone who would do something quirky and mellow. Plus it’s illegal and Patagonia doesn’t do that stuff. It couldn’t be on the books, so they couldn’t pay me, but I just got a really good jacket out of it. So DL hit me up. We did it during the day because we figured no one would question us. I showed up with paint cans at noon and painted a fish. The construction guys were there. A cop even came up and took a picture of it with me. Then the art director hit me up to do t-shirts; he was super pumped. I figured it’d be the opposite; I thought they were going to yell at me. I was like, “Holy moly. Yeah!” So those are coming out soon. And then they had an event out in Venice. So I went up to that at the Iron Works. I thought I’d get there and they’d be out to get me, “We’ve got you now! You’ve tainted our image!” but in actuality they’re really cool and open to suggestions on how to make things not necessarily hip. People have really wigged out on that Bowery store. Surf in New York has kind of gone over my head. I left right before it blew up.
How long have you been out in LA?
Three years. I moved from New York in 2011. When I say I’ve been here for that time, I mean I’ve been traveling. My dad wants to do this project and he has a little money to play with. He asked if I’d be interested in building a house. So right now I’m designing a house in Florida with my dad. I kind of want to go down there and be around for that, and just be back and forth. There and here and New England.
Where in Florida?
St. Augustine. It’s the oldest city in Florida, most people don’t know that. It’s really awesome. ’Cause Florida sucks. I think it’s horrible, but St. Augustine is like really neat. It reminds me of Portsmouth, New Hampshire with a tropical vibe. They don’t allow chain restaurants because it’s historical. There’s a college there so it’s not like god’s waiting room like the rest of Florida. Spanish architecture. That’s why I’m okay with going back there all the time. But I never want to stay too long because I’ll feel like I failed. I surrendered. I’m still in my 20s. Like, what the fuck? You gave up? You lived all of these places and you couldn’t hack it?
What are you learning from starting this clothing business?
I’m learning about all of these processes. I’d never have thought of them before. I look at someone’s jeans and I know how they were made. Especially everyone’s obsession with indigo. It’s a really cool process. There are all kinds. I went to a factory in Japan and it looked very much like Breaking Bad. Indigo dyers, their hands are permanently blue. It’s dope. They’re cool guys. They dip, they time it, they actually know how to manipulate the dye as it’s spreading. Like how we tie-dye with rubber bands, they can do it by dipping certain ways. They had a bunch of art prints they were doing as well for Andrew Kidman. I like learning about this stuff. But still, I really love drawing something, putting it in a scanner and just emailing someone and getting a check. When you work for yourself, you don’t get paid. I love making clothes, but when you have an idea, you have to wait six months before it comes out. It’s really odd with a creative person to look at something for so long. I hate it. I want to throw it away. When I was in the factory, I’m like, “Oh god. We need to burn this.” But the raddest thing is when I see someone in the street wearing Ours. I’m so pumped. It’s so different from when I used to do t-shirts for Urban Outfitters. When I’d see someone wearing one of those, it bummed me out. Then I didn’t want to tell them that I made it. You’re like, “Oh sweet shirt.” “Yeah it was in the sale bin!”
What artists are you hoping to work with besides friends?
My gosh. That list could be nuts. They’re mostly dead. This is really odd, but I really want to do photo-type patterns on t-shirts, like collage-y. I’d love to have a shirt that had like Helmut Newton-type photos but then like a mix of early anthropological stuff. Indiana Jones meets weird fashion, South Beach Miami. I like Leo Fitzpatrick’s messy collage stuff.
He’s in this issue of Monster Children, #42.
Lousy Leo. I like his mixed-media stuff with Disney. But you encounter weird copy-writing crap when you put that stuff on clothes. Folks that I looked at at Basel this year, their shit would be so great on a garment, but with art you can do that. Clothing you can’t; someone will cease and desist you. I’d use John Wesley and I don’t think he’s dead yet. He’s like 98. I’m fucking obsessed with him and I keep thinking he’s dead. I’d actually like to use musicians and writers who also drew—like if Bukowski drew a t-shirt, that’d be funny. It’s like a drunken smear. I’d also like a Matthew Barney kind of weird gooey, basically a photo of it, but then it’s like emulsification. So you look at it and it looks gooey but it’s just fabric. Just so it’s different. Barney’s alive still. I think Barney’s not that old. He had Bjork’s kid. He dadded it.
Tell me about the upcoming autumn/winter line.
I need a mental laxative. This lookbook, I wanted to shoot a video. And I worked with my buddy Dustin Miller, who did the first Team Average. Dustin and I went to school together. So he shot it while we were in Florida. We scouted some spots and I’m not a video person at all, so working with one was really exciting for me.
It’s almost like you’re feeding this idea that you have to this creature. And it shits it out and you’re just kind of like lucky if it’s good.
Dustin’s really good at taking my verbal diarrhea and making sense of it. I wanted to film in these cave systems that are full of water; nobody knows about them. I thought maybe we could shoot a model with a manatee. He was like, “Okay. So what is like the story of it?” I was like, “It’s autumn/winter!” He’s like, “Okay well this is very tropical.” I was like, “Oh okay. Well we should do this on a seamless.” So we shot the whole thing in a studio.
How’d it go?
I’m sitting at the booth at Capsule and people are like, oh man that video is pretty sweet. “Yeah well, the story is that it’s cold out but we shot it in Florida so it wasn’t.” I really just wanted to show the story of the manatees and the caves and also I was high on mushrooms talking to Peter Sutherland at this party about it. “Well did you do the shoot in the caves?” I told him about it beforehand. So I’m like, “Well I went diving in the caves and I swam around with the wetsuits on but we didn’t use it.” Peter: “Aw too bad.” Me: “It’s autumn/winter so you can’t do that. But the filmer was able to distinct that. Don’t steal my idea. I’m going down to Florida to shoot this still for the next season.”
What’s it like being from Florida?
Florida gets a bad rap for being racist and for doing dumb shit, but the gulf of Florida is like the South. That’s where Warren (Smith) is from, the South. It’s called the Riviera. But then you have Cuba that’s like mashed with Las Vegas and some other weird shit. And then you have Jupiter and West Palm Beach, which is all college kids and Jewish grandmothers and Fendi bags. Then you have inland Florida which is like rednecks. Warren and I have it all mapped out by athletes, because he and I grew up surfing ESA. Like if I was in Maine, I’d be surfing with those kids. If I was in Florida, I would be surfing against Florida kids and they’re way better than the Maine kids. But we always gage it. You can throw the Florida label out there and you’ll have some refugee from Haiti who surfs and English is his second language. Or you could find some kid who has like dog boxes in the back of his truck and has a buckshot rifle and he surfs and drives an hour to get to the beach. And we’d all have to surf together. So it’s the one thing that kind of brings you together. Same with skating too. So many pro-skaters are from there. They’re like scary Harmony Korine-type characters, like super white trash humper person and he skateboards. Or you’ll have this super glammed-out kid from Tampa, Florida. There are all of these different ones. It just gets a really fucking bad rap for the racism thing. They also can’t count votes. But it’s not just your grandmother’s office. There’s some cool shit going on down there. Oh and best thrifting because everyone is dying.